Upcoming Agent Spotlight Interviews & Guest Posts

  • Caroline Trussell Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 5/20/2024
  • Jenna Satterthwaite Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 6/10/2024
  • Bethany Weaver Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 6/26/2024

Agent Spotlight & Agent Spotlight Updates

  • Agent Spotlights & Interviews have been updated through the letter "K" as of 3/28/2024 and many have been reviewed by the agents. Look for more information as I find the time to update more agent spotlights.


Happy New Year Everyone! I hope you had a great holiday and are looking forward to a great year. As I look at where I am now in relation to the start of 2015 I can't believe how much has changed for the good. At the beginning of 2015, I was still heartbroken over the death of my husband, just laid off from my job because of my company closing with no job prospects, and feeling like it was the loneliness and most challenging time of my life. Added to that I knew I'd have to adjust to living alone in September when Anna Li left for college. Literally everything important in my life had changed or was going to change.

Now I have a job I really love (although it doesn't pay well) as a part-time contract nonfiction writer for attorney websites, have adjusted to Anna Li's move to college and watched her blossom as an adult, and am in a relationship with a great new guy who makes me happy. I can't believe how good life has become. It's SO amazing!! I'm really looking forward to more happiness and good things in 2016! I hope you are too.

Today I’m excited to have debut author Kathy MacMillan here to share about her YA fantasy SWORD AND VERSE that releases on January 19, 2016. It’s been compared to Megan Whalen Turner’s books—a favorite of mine—so I’m definitely excited to read this.

I wanted to read the ARC but have not been able to load it onto my new Amazon Fire from Edelweiss. Anyone know how to do this? I'd appreciate the help.

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads:

Raisa was just a child when she was sold to work as a slave in the kingdom of Qilara. Despite her young age, her father was teaching her to read and write, grooming her to take his place as a Learned One. In Qilara, the Arnathim, like Raisa, are the lowest class, and literacy is a capital offense. What’s more, only the king, prince, tutor, and tutor-in-training are allowed to learn the very highest order language, the language of the gods. So when the tutor-in-training is executed for teaching slaves this sacred language, and Raisa is selected to replace her, Raisa knows any slipup on her part could mean death.

Keeping her secret is hard enough, but the romance that’s been growing between her and Prince Mati isn’t helping matters. Then Raisa is approached by the Resistance—an underground army of slave rebels—to help liberate Arnath slaves. She wants to free her people, but that would mean aiding a war against Mati. As Raisa struggles with what to do, she discovers a secret that the Qilarites have been hiding for centuries—one that, if uncovered, could bring the kingdom to its knees.

Hi Kathy! Thanks so much for joining us.

1. Tell us about yourself and how you became a writer.

I am a librarian, storyteller, and an American Sign Language interpreter in addition to being a writer. I guess you could say I love language! In the early 2000s, I was active in the Harry Potter fandom as one of the administrators of the Sugar Quill (http://sugarquill.net/). I also wrote a LOT of fanfiction. Writing fanfiction gradually morphed into writing original fiction.

2. Harry Potter got me into writing too. Where did you get the idea for your book?

While researching for an article on book burning, I came across a reference to ancient libraries composed entirely of letters. I scribbled in the margin of my notebook, “What if they were letters to the gods?” The Library of the Gods was the starting point of the story.

3. What an awesome way to get a story idea. The reviews of your book really praise the depth of your world building. Share about how you developed Raisa’s world and any tips for other writers trying to create a new world for their stories.

87 revisions. I’m only kind of kidding here. The original manuscript was a very different story, though Raisa and Mati and the language of the gods were always at the center of it, and it always dealt with the question of who controls knowledge. With every revision, the world expanded and came into clearer focus. I now have a 63-page chart detailing everything from the average rainfall in Qilara to the population demographics of the various cities. I’ve also found a couple of books that have been a great resource for this detailed world building. I write about them here: https://kathymacmillan.wordpress.com/2014/09/11/scary-starts-and-fictional-census-results/

4. Okay, you're making me feel better about admitting I revised my first book for about 10 years. I loved how you made the stakes so high and difficult for Raisa: help the slaves like her and stay faithful to Prince Mati who she loves. How did you build on your stakes and keep the tension mounting?

Can “87 revisions” just be my answer to everything? :D One of the challenges with this story was
that Raisa is not a sword-wielding tough girl – and it was very important to me to stay true to that, because, while kickass heroines are great, that’s not the only way to be strong. Raisa is the kind of girl – and we all know women like this – who might appear meek on the surface but has a will of iron underneath. But that also meant that action was not her default mode, so I had to force her into situations where she had no choice but to act. This is an area where agent, editor, and betareader feedback was invaluable.

5. She sounds like a fantastic character I want to get to know. Are you a pantser or plotter and why do you think that works for you?

I think I am a combination. I usually start out doing a lot of research and world building, making tons of notes, and focusing on the characters and their backstories. I do make an outline of sorts, but it’s not so detailed that I consider myself a true plotter. Usually when I start a first draft, I have a good idea of the emotional beats of the story, but not of the plot itself. The first draft, for me, is all about figuring out the characters and how they relate to each other. Plot is something to be cleaned up later. As I write, there are many turns that come up that I don’t anticipate. In fact, there is a moment near the end of Sword and Verse that several readers have cited as their favorite moment in the book, when Raisa does something that surprises everyone around her. While I was writing it, I was just as surprised as the characters in that scene, because I’d had no idea she was going to do that either!

6. I'm a combination too. Your agent is Steven Malk. Share how he became your agent and your road to publication.

I’d been steadily submitting to agents since 2002, and had racked up lots of rejections. Sword and Verse was the fourth novel I submitted to various agents. In 2008, I read a Writer’s Digest article about new agents looking for clients, and one of them, Lindsay Davis at Writers House, looked like a great fit for me and my book. So I submitted to her and she said she’d like to work with me to revise it. Then, several months later, she moved out of the country and Steven Malk, the senior agent with whom she had been working, took over. Steven represents so many amazing authors and illustrators – I probably never would have had the guts to query him directly. (Though he tells me that’s ridiculous.)

7. That's awesome he took over for Lindsay. I read on your website about your launch party, and it’s a really different way to do it. Tell us about it and why you chose to do it that way.

Since 2001, I have been involved with a wonderful non-profit organization called Deaf Camps, Inc. (https://deafcampsinc.wordpress.com/), which provides completely accessible camps for Deaf children and American Sign Language camps for new signers. I knew I wanted to have a big party for my launch – this has been a long time coming, and I want to celebrate! - and what better recipient of party love than the organization I adore? So I am putting on a gala fundraiser event to benefit Deaf Camps, Inc.’s scholarship program – a fancy dinner, book signing, silent auction, and everything will be completely accessible in American Sign Language and English. Sword and Verse is all about communication and access to knowledge, so it feels especially fitting to celebrate its launch in this way.

8. That's SO fantastic! What’s something that has surprised you about the publication process?

How long it takes, and how much waiting is involved. Sword and Verse will be published 10.5 years after I started submitting it, and 7 years and 6 days after that first email from Lindsay Davis.

9. I admire how you stuck with it given how long it took to get your book published. What are you working on now?

I am working on the follow-up to Sword and Verse. Many people have been excited about the fact that Sword and Verse is a standalone, and it does function as a complete story in itself. I had never intended to write a sequel, but these characters, apparently, weren’t done with me. The second book picks up not long after the first one ends, and it is from the point of view of Soraya Gamo. The story deals with the consequences of the choices made in the first book.

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Kathy. You can find Kathy at:
https://kathymacmillan.wordpress.com/ or on Twitter at @kathys_quill.

Kathy has generously offered an ARC of SWORD AND VERSE for a giveaway. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower (just click the follow button if you’re not a follower) and leave a comment through January 16th. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter either contest.

If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry. This is for US and Canada.

Here's what's coming up:

Next Monday I have a guest post with debut author Monica Tesler Bounders and her agent David Dunton with a giveaway of her MG science fiction BOUNDERS and a query critique by David Dunton.

Friday that week I'll be participating in the Dreaming of Books Giveaway Hop. I'll have lots of great books or an Amazon Gift Card for you to choose from.

The following Monday I have an interview with debut author Lois Sepahban and a giveaway of her MG historical fiction PAPER WISHES.

The Monday after that I have a guest post by Gregory Funaro and a giveaway of  one book in his MG fantasy Alistair Grim’s Odditorium series. 

Hope to see you Monday! 


Kristin Lenz said...

What a wonderful post to kick off the new year! I knew about all of the good turns in your life in recent months, Natalie, but it's still great to see your happiness shared here. And I loved this interview - I related to so much of it, from all of the revising to the many years to publication. This line was great advice for me to follow in my own writing: "But that also meant that action was not her default mode, so I had to force her into situations where she had no choice but to act."

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Natalie, I'm very happy for you that 2016 is starting so much better.

Kathy's very fortunate another agent took over when hers left. Many writers would find themselves at square one again.

Bish Denham said...

I LOVE the premise of this novel. 87 revisions! That is about the most inspiring thing I've heard about in a long time. I needed to read this as it will help spur me on, help to motivate me. Thank you, Kathy!

And Happy New Year, Natalie. I'm so glad the changes in your life have led to joy.

Greg Pattridge said...

Kathy's journey to the published ranks was a long road but one that many of us follow in our own writing. Thanks for the interview, Natalie, and have a happy 2016. You are already off to a great start.

Joanne R. Fritz said...

Happy New Year, Natalie! So glad to hear you're looking forward to 2016. Sounds as if it will be a fun year for you.

Great interview. I'm so impressed that Kathy went through 87 revisions and never gave up. What a journey! She sounds very organized too, with the worldbuilding chart.

cleemckenzie said...

I loved reading about your daughter's transition to grown up lady, even though that had to be a major change for you. And congratulations on the new job and the great new relationship. May 2016 continue to be positive and happy.

I hope Kathy's book takes off like a rocket!

Ellie said...

Wow! 87 Revisions! that's some serious dedication. From the ARC reviews I've seen so far, it was definitely worth it. I can't wait to read this book. Thanks for the giveaway!

Eileen said...

Happy New Year!!

Wow I can't believe it took her over 10 years to get the book published. But you have to wait for all good things right? ;) Thank you for the giveaway!

Dow said...

Wishing you a happy and healthy year, Natalie. Thank you for the interview, Kathy!

kathrynjankowski said...

So glad things are going well for you, Natalie. Impressed by Kathy's patience.

Carina Olsen said...

All the hugs sweetie. <3 So sorry things weren't going well early last year :( But so so happy things are going so well now :D YAY. Wishing you all the best. <3 Also, gorgeous post :) Not entering for the giveaway, since I live in Norway, but yeah. So curious about this book :)

dolorah said...

Natalie: so happy to see things working out for you in your day and writing life. You deserve the good things.

Kathy: wow, that was quite the journey. The book and characters sounds intriguing. Lots of work to create and produce. I hope it sells well :)

Liz Brooks said...

Happy New Year! I'm so sorry your husband died--hopefully this year will be a much easier year for you.

That's super cool about all the world building, especially all the specific charts. And I really admire Kathy's perseverance since it can't have been easy to stick to a project that long. That launch party idea is brilliant. :)

Thanks for the giveaway!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

That was a long time from start to finish, but it will be worth it!
Natalie, good to hear life is much better now.

Jemi Fraser said...

Love how those What If questions lead to the most interesting stories!

I'm so happy you life is going so well, Natalie!! :)

mshatch said...

Great interview and congratulations to Kathy. I can relate to waiting. And what a fabulous idea for a launch party!

Donna K. Weaver said...

As a former Harry Potter forum moderator, I totally get how HP can lead people to writing. I know so many fans who began writing because of that series.

Just preordered the audiobook. I'm excited to listen to it.

Penny said...

This book looks amazing! Thanks for the post and the giveaway!

Sayomay said...

I would love to enter! :D thank you these look awesome!!
I follow via xeno_turtle@yahoo(dot)com

LSpeers said...

Such an interesting and original sounding story. I can't wait to read it! I follow via lcspeers@gmail(dot)com

Beth said...

Oh, Natalie, I'm so happy to hear how things are going for you! Sounds like 2016 will be a great year.
And congratulations to Kathy! Sounds like a great book, although my reading stack is full right now so don't worry about entering me in the giveaway.

Precious said...

Hi Natalie! Glad that things are going well for you. :) Thanks for the interview!

Precious @ Fragments of Life

Unknown said...

This book looks great. Can't wait to read it.

Unknown said...

What a great interview to kick off the new year! Love the story behind what sounds like a gorgeous and intriguing book. Congratulations Kathy, and glad to hear that things are on the upswing for you Natalie!

Kimberley Griffiths Little said...

Great interview, Kathy, and I can so relate on subbing for a decade! I loved SWORD AND VERSE, too! Was lucky to get a chance to read it ahead of pub day because she and I are working on a piece together for Harper/Epic Reads for Valentine's Day. :-)

Danielle H. said...

I've heard so much about this book already and can't wait to read it. I posted on my tumblr blog: http://yesreaderwriterpoetmusician.tumblr.com/post/136687906222/literary-rambles-kathy-macmillan-interview-and

Natalie, you are a tremendous source of inspiration! You are so strong and giving and I'm so happy to know you. Thanks for everything!

Danielle said...

Thanks for doing this interview - I didn't know much about this book, but was intrigued by the cover. Now I'm even more interested in checking it out! Congrats, Kathy!

And I posted on Twitter too :) https://twitter.com/Danielle_Reads/status/684438980188893184

Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

This sounds like a wonderful book. I'm not that much into fantasy anymore, but this sounds like good one, and original. I also like the idea of a strong heroine who doesn't have to be "kick-ass" strong. I applaud Kathy's perseverance! It's encouraging to me, as I've been revising a book for about 10 years, trying to get it right. (I've had others published that took less time but the one I keep returning to is near and dear to my heart. It just has it's own pace.)

On another note, I'm glad that the year has brought good things to you: a new job, a daughter making her way in life, and a new relationship, after such deep loss. Best wishes for all good things in the coming year.

lindalou said...

Wow! 87 revisions! I love fantasies! Congrats on your new release and thank you for the giveaway!

Natasha said...

Great interview!
I can't wait to read this one!!
Thanks for the chance to win!
natasha_donohoo_8 at hotmail dot com

Rosi said...

So nice to hear that your life is back on track. This will be a good year for you, I'm sure. Thanks for this wonderful, informative interview. Please let someone else win, though. Buried in books here!

Unknown said...

I love Kathy's comments on her depth of world building and number of revisions. Next to non-cliche characters, I find world building most important. Wishing her much success!

I'm so happy to hear about how your life changed for the better in 2015! I hope 2016 brings even more wonderful changes, and I look forward to hearing about all of them! :)

Crystal Collier said...

Natalie, life changes on a dime, doesn't it? I'm glad things are changing for the better. You are epic.

Kathy's book sounds wonderful. My 10 yr old would eat it up. Maybe I should introduce her, eh?

Cherie Reich said...

I'm so happy that it looks like your 2016 is shaping up to be a good one, Natalie.

Congrats to Kathy! Fan fiction was how I got into writing too. I love the cover and idea behind Sword and Verse.

Christine Rains said...

What a year, Natalie! I love the hope in your words. Here's to a grand 2016 for all of us. :) Congratulations to Kathy. I wrote Harry Potter fan fiction too. It's still out there on the net... under a different name, though!

cleemckenzie said...

I love hearing where authors find their ideas. This was great.

Cynthia said...

Natalie, I'm glad things picked up for you last year and that you are healing from the loss of your husband.

Kathy, congratulations on your book! I was particularly interested in learning about what you do for the deaf community.

Patchi said...

Happy New Year! This book sounds amazing and I'm adding it to my TBR.

Tyrean Martinson said...

Happy New Year! I'm so glad that so many things are going well for you, Natalie! It's wonderful to hear your good news.

And, Sword and Verse sounds great!

Denise Covey said...

Hi Natalie! I'm glad you're moving forward in 2016. Time helps for sure. I wish you great happiness in your new relationship.
Lovely to read about Kathy and her new release.:-)

Unknown said...

WOW, loved reading about her road to publication. It's nice to have the reminder that good things come to those who wait, and the idea for the launch party was awesome!! Can't wait to read it :-)

Angela Brown said...

Thank you Natalie and Kathy for a great interview. Kathy, you are a true example of persistence and really an inspiration. Wishing you the very best for a successful release :-)

Kelly Polark said...

So glad you have positive things going, Natalie! Hugs to you and best wishes for more wonderful things!
Congratulations to Kathy! That is a whole lot of revisions!!

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

Natalie, I'm so glad you are doing well. I was thinking about you and Anna Li just the other day. I'm in awe of how you are taking on life.

Kathy's interview was super. Lucky lady to get Steven Malk as an agent by default!!! Best wishes with your book. Raisa sounds like a wonderful character.

Jessica Lawson said...

Natalie, I'm so happy to hear that you're in a good place!

Ladies, thank you for the interview~ the book sounds amazing and your publishing journey is inspiring! Would LOVE to win this!

Laura S. said...

Really great interview with Kathy! Her book sounds terrific.

Happy 2016, Natalie! Glad to hear you're in such a good place. :)

Happy reading and writing! from Laura Marcella @ Wavy Lines

Stina said...

Natalie, I'm so thrilled how different this year is for you. You went through so much last year. xox

And wow, on Steven Malk. I've heard some amazing things about him. Plus I'm excited about the fundraiser Katie did to celebrate the release of her book.

Valerie Bodden said...

So glad to hear things are look up for you in 2016, Natalie! You've persevered through some incredibly difficult trials. Thanks for all you do for the writing community and for the giveaway. Sounds like a fantastic read! valbodden(at)gmail(dot)com

Lynda R Young as Elle Cardy said...

Natalie, so glad to hear things have turned around for you. May 2016 be an awesome year for you.
Kathy, I love your 87 revisions answer. It's so simple (lol) and true!

Michael Di Gesu said...

Hi, Natalie, Hi, Kathy,

Happy New Year, Ladies!

Natalie, so happy to hear life is full of happiness for you now. I know you had some really rough times and it thrills me to hear how happy things are for you. What a way to start the new year!

And, Kathy, your book sounds amazing. I, too, was inspire by JK Rowling and wrote my first fantasy because of it. It , too, had be through hundreds... not kidding of revisions, with another one to go. So I hope I have the same happy ending as you.

Congrats! All the best for 2016! And what an amazingly original way to have a debut party! Already paying it forward is so much the way to go... I admire your heart....

All the best!

I'll Tweet, Natalie!

Anonymous said...

This one's been on my TBR for a while! Sounds great.

Karen Lange said...

Glad to hear your good news, Natalie! So happy for you that things are going well. :)

Appreciate the introduction to Kathy. I was a little surprised, too, at how long the publishing process can take. So we get better at cultivating patience, right? :) I'll pass on the giveaway this time around. Have a great rest of the week!

Cindy said...

Great interview! Almost 11 years is quite the dedication. I've been waiting for Sword and Verse for a while now. After having it on my TBR for so long, it's kind of hard to believe that it's coming out soon! Have a great week! (I followed via email xinyi1467 at gmail and tweeted.)

Stephen Tremp said...

I didn't begin reading Harry Potter until the last movie was about to come out. Then I read the entire series straight through. Twice. I read the books in church and at work and late into the night. What an inspiration that series turned out to be.

DMS said...

Natalie- It is amazing how much can change in a year. I am so happy you are in a much better place now. May 2016 be a wonderful year for you. :)

I loved hearing from Kathy. So interesting to learn more about authors and where their stories come from. I really like this cover! Wishing Kathy the best of luck!

David Powers King said...

Cool to meet you, Kathy. You're story is right up my alley. Will have to check it out. :)

Happy New Year, Literary Rambles!

Empty Nest Insider said...

Wow, even close to 87 revisions is unbelievable! I'm sure all of your hard work has paid off, Kathy!

Natalie, I'm so glad that good things are happening for you. Your new job sounds great, and maybe the pay will increase when they realize how invaluable you are. I'm also glad that your daughter is happy at school and that you're in a wonderful relationship. I can't even imagine what is was like for you to lose your husband, and I admire you for having the strength and courage to move on in such a positive way for your family. Happy New Year, Natalie!


Anonymous said...

I've had the same happen to me: horrible things all at once and then doors open and life lightens up. Happy 2016. I'm pleased to read about Kathy and her upcoming book. Congrats to her.

Unknown said...

Congratulations on making Top 100 Blogs! http://www.rebeccakrusee.com

Rosalyn said...

Natalie, I'm so thrilled your 2016 is looking up, and that you're happy. Also fun to see so many 16ers coming up on the blog. I had a chance to read Kathy's ARC already, so you don't need to enter me into the contest, but I can vouch that it's a wonderful story--and the time she spent on worldbuilding definitely shows.

Heather said...

2015 was such a hard year for you in so many ways, Natalie. I'm beyond happy that 2016 is starting out promising and exciting! You deserve it. And congrats to Kathy on Sword and Verse. I love that cover and will definitely be checking the book out!

Holly Biggs said...

I cannot wait to read this one! I would love to be the winner! ;) Thanks for the great Giveaway!

Megan S. said...

Thank you so much for the giveaway. I follow via Bloglovin'- ChickensGal. Contact: megan.booktube@gmail.com

Morgyn said...

Totally on my Goodreads list! And will Tweet too!